By Jay Mwamba
In its first visit to New York since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the An Garda Siochana boxing team attracted some 450 guests, including several luminaries, to a showdown with its New York counterparts last Thursday to benefit the NYPD and FDNY Widows and Children’s Funds.
The Garda pugs lost the NYPD Police Boxing Association organized “Champions & Heroes Corporate Night at the Fights” event at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers in Manhattan by five bouts to four.
For Garda team manager Larry Morrison of Sligo it was all for a good cause. “The winners in this case are the victims’ families,” said Morrison.
On their fourth outing to New York since 1997, the Irish Police fighters had toured Ground Zero before squaring off with the team of NYPD boxers and one FDNY member.
While guests, who’d paid up to $10,000 per ringside table, dined on shrimp cocktail, filet mignon and cheese cake, the Garda posted wins through 147 pounder Alan Foley, a two-time national champion; 156 pounders David O’Brien and Donal Barrett, and Trevor Markham (165 pounds).
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
A points winner over John Mickel on his last trip to New York two years ago, Markham was named the Garda’s “Fighter of the Night” and was presented with an award by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly for outclassing the NYPD’s Robert Scopino.
“It was a tough fight. I knew what to expect, I had a briefing from Darren [Conlon],” said the 22-year-old Markham, whose sharp punching forced Scopino to take two standing counts en route to a points loss.
Conlon, one of two boxing Garda twins, scored a TKO over Scopino at the Regiment Amory two years ago but lacked the conditioning this time around to handle Alex Mancera in their 165-pound bout.
“Normally we do three two-minute rounds, but we did four two-minute rounds. I was tired in the fourth round, but it’s no excuse, he was the better man on the night,” said Conlon, a 24-year-old County Mayo native now stationed at Rathfarnham Garda Station in Dublin.
At age 18, the youngest fighter on the Garda team, Foley put on a classy display in his win over Julio Orosco, who is nine years his senior. A college student, he has held two national titles at light welterweight and reached the quarterfinals of the world junior championships last November, where he lost to the eventual winner.
Foley’s Kildare compatriot Dave O’Brien, who’s 26, picked up his third straight victory over NYPD opposition since 1998 after getting the nod over old foe Greg Trager.
“I’ve fought Greg twice before here and in Belfast, so we know each other well,” said O’Brien, the oldest fighter in the group. “I had to work hard because he’s a strong guy.”
O’Brien’s 23-year-old brother, Peter, was the only Garda fighter to be stopped. He was decked a couple of times by the venomous left hook of the squat Curtis Steven before the ref called a halt to their 178-pound contest at two minutes of the second round.
The fourth Garda winner, 21-year-old Barrett, was impressive in his first fight in five years. He used his long reach to dominate Timmy Hinchey, the only FDNY boxer on the NYPD squad.
“This is my first time here and I think that I wasn’t too bad,” said Barrett, a County Mayo man based in Galway. “I boxed from [age] 11 to 15 and gave up to join the Garda. I resumed my career last July.”
Other Garda fighters who came up short on the night were 156 pounders Brendan Shovelin, who was decisioned by Curtis Jones, and Pearse O’Sullivan, who was outpoined by Flavio Rodriguez, later NYPD’s “Fighter of the Night.”
In the super heavyweight class, Patrick Casey dropped a decision to big Gerard Benderoth.
Apart from Commissioner Kelly and other NYPD and FDNY brass, the event also drew several big names from business and professional boxing. Among the latter were former heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney, Vito Antuofermo, Juan LaPorte, Howard Davis, Iran Barkley, and Carlos Ortiz.